This is a banner year for women cartoonists, highlighted by major awards and historic milestones. Roz Chast (www.rozchast.com) became the first cartoonist to be honored by the National Book Awards in the adult categories. She was the only woman nominee among the five finalists and ten authors in the Nonfiction category Longlist. Her "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?" memoir details her aging parents' final years. She just won the $50,000 first annual Kirkus book prize in Nonfiction. Chast's work first appeared in The New Yorker in 1978, when she was 24. More than 800 cartoons have since been published. Chast and Jules Feiffer will talk with New Yorker art editor Francoise Mouly, in a Strand Bookstore event at Symphony Space (www.symphonyspace.org/events) in New York City, November 12, 7:30 PM.
Alison Bechdel, a cartoonist and graphic memoirist exploring the complexities of familial relationships, was awarded a $625,000 MacArthur Fellowship "genius grant." (www.macfound.org/fellows). Womensenews (www.womensenews.org) published her first comic strip, "Dykes to Watch Out For," in 1983. She self-syndicated the strip in alternative newspapers and magazines for 25 years, from 1983 to 2008. A musicial adaptation of Bechdel's first graphic memoir, "Fun Home," was a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It opens on Broadway in April 2015. This year New Yorker cartoonist Liza Donnelly was the first woman cartoonist finalist of the Thurber Prize for American Humor, for her book, "Women On Men" (www.lizadonnelly.com).
These accolades are a positive follow-up to my 2006 article (www.womensenewsorg/story/arts/06810/cartoon-exhibit-put-gender-history-display) denoting that a "Masters of American Comics" museum exhibit featured 14 of "the most innovative and influential American comic artists." The all-male exhibit, organized by the Hammer Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, provoked debate about the historic and contemporary contributions of women cartoonists. As a result, programs with female cartoonists were added to the national exhibit schedule.
The National Cartoonists Society, founded in 1946, awards the profession's highest honor, the Reuben, for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year. The honoree is chosen by a secret ballot of the members. Lynn Johnston ("For Better Or For Worse") was the first woman recipient, in 1985. Cathy Guisewite ("Cathy") was the second, in 1992.
Signe Wilkinson was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 70 years, at the Philadelphia Daiy News, in 1992. Ann Telnaes, at the Washington Post, was the second in 2001. This year, Jen Sorensen, at the Austin Chronicle, became the first woman to win the Herblock Prize in ten years, celebrating excellence in editorial cartooning.
Women cartoonists are finally drawing a fine line and earning righful rewards for their work. Stay tooned.